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State Fair Food


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Back to fair food.

One of the best fairs for eating, and it's not even a state fair, is the Bloomsburg Fair in Bloomsburg PA, happens in Mid September.

The Bloomsburg Fair

But there's good eating to be had at any State Fair. Best bet are the buffets set up by the local church groups, fire auxillaries and growers associations. Also regional and specialties, like pork tenderloin at the Indianna State Fair, Turkey Legs at the Iowa State Fair and Giant Cream Puffs at the Wisconsin State Fair.

But Bloomsburg is the one to eat and it's a reasonable day trip from NY or Philadlephia.

Holly Moore

"I eat, therefore I am."

HollyEats.Com

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For the record (since you asked): my avatar is an image created by morphing my face with my puppy's face.

The "ethnic" village is kind of a fraud. It's composed of pasty-faced white folks selling facsimiles of "ethnic" foods. Last year I sampled the Indian and the Greek stalls. The lamb curry was nondescript, except they used a cheap supermarket brand of curry powder for the sauce. The souvlaki tasted good - it was composed of well-marinated lamb chunks that were charcoal grilled - but I was a little disturbed that it was served with a cup of ketchup.

My original question was a serious one: you rarely see any of these queer foods outside of a venue like the state fair. So culinarily, walking into the fair feels like you've gone through the looking glass. Does anyone have any historical context for fair foods they'd like to share?

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It was one of Holly Moore’s posts (or maybe a posting from his web site) that gave me the courage to try deep fried Oreo cookies at a regional fair --the Wurst Fest in central Texas. On a conceptual level, it sounded disgusting, the cookies are dipped in batter and fried to a greasy golden brown.

They were delicious and somewhat addictive. The frying process changes the texture and the cookie becomes almost fudge like. It is the type of food you will only see in a fair type setting and worth trying.

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It was one of Holly Moore’s posts (or maybe a posting from his web site) that gave me the courage to try deep fried Oreo cookies at a regional fair

Just when I was up to my navel in pinto beans and seeking purpose, your post has rekindled my spirit. If HollyEats.Com can get one person, just one person, to overcome his fear, drive on, and eat a deep fried Oreo, it has all been worthwhile.

Holly Moore

"I eat, therefore I am."

HollyEats.Com

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That article did not make me want to drive the few blocks to go to the fair. I've been having cravings for corn dogs since the fair started, but the craving will pass or I'll make some at home. I've only gone to the Illinois State Fair once in the 4 years I've lived in Springfield and that was enough. I went with some friends who just wanted to go there to eat -- smoked turkey leg (dry), onion blossoms (blah), alligator on a stick (chewy chicken) and expensive lemon shake-ups to wash it all down. The Ethnic Village is rather laughable. One good thing to be said about adventurous fair food: we may not have had ice cream served in a cone if it wasn't for a fair vendor. As for fair food in general, didn't most of them evolve to meet some perceived demand or need for portable food while viewing the events or displays?

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We have some good grub at our state fair here in Kentucky, which starts next week I believe. The only ethnic food is southern regional.

The pork producers and lamb producers both have tents with awesome sandwiches and meat plates. You can also buy all sorts of homemade jams, jellies, preserves, and honeys. There is mutton barbeque and bowls of burgoo, thick with venison, rabbit and squirrel.

There is of course the ubiquitous corn dog, which was called a pronto pup when I lived in Memphis, TN.

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  • 2 weeks later...

Oh my Gawd! Fried apple rings and Apple dumplin's with cinnamon icecream are the best!

I missed the Sussex county fair this year. Can't wait till next year!

Life is too important to be taken seriously.[br]Oscar Wilde

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Does anyone have any historical context for fair foods they'd like to share?

In terms of historical context, I think the key is usually novelty. Back when world's fairs were big things here in the states at the turn of the century, Food vendors started getting alot of competition from like-minded menu driven competitors. Also, the themes of many of these fairs is progress of some sort....so "cutting edge" and futuristic also drove vendors to twist taste or form into something unique and unheard of.

Back then inovations would also be reworkings of the same foods, such as how hot dogs were served. First plain, then on a bun, on a stick, battered, etc.

I remember years ago, when mini donuts were a big deal...or donut holes...Wow!!!! :shock:

Now-a-days vendors want a unique novelty....something that goes past the former item. Hence, the growth each year in the number of food vendors and food courts. A couple of examples....continuous thin-sliced potatoes [deep fried of course]. I'm surprised it took a while for others to do sweet potatoes this way too...next it'll be blue pototoes or some other exotic color.

Eventually the shock-novelty wears down, then they are marketed mainstream, such as Iowa State Fair Brand Corn Dogs. Available in IA supermarkets [not bad pan-fried I might add]. Another that comes to mind, funnel cake kits and makers.

State participants enthralled with the world fairs, decided to hold state fairs, then even counties would get into the act.

Also, I think many of these gatherings are hold-overs from harvest, seasonal celebrations passed down thru the ages in Europe.

I'd be surprised if their wasn't some scholarly works out there on Fairs.

I have many fond memories of the Iowa State Fair as a kid.

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It's not exactly a state fair, but in June Red Bank, NJ has a 3 day Food and Jazz Festival. It has continuous Jazz & Blues at 3 different stages. The best part is the food. There are over 2 dozen local shops and restaurants that sserve up some of their specialty items. Grilled portabella subs, blackened ahi tuna sandwiches, sushi and sashimi, jambalaya, pulled pork sandwiches from roasted whole hog (With a different name every year...) soft shell crab sandwiches. Of course there are still places hawking slices of pizza and butterfly fried grease blobs but nothing's perfect...

=Mark

Give a man a fish, he eats for a Day.

Teach a man to fish, he eats for Life.

Teach a man to sell fish, he eats Steak

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  • 9 months later...

That time of year again and I just had my first deep-fried Oreo. Also my second, third, and fourth. Hey, that's how many come in an order. The best part was they sell milk to go with. Also saw Twinkies (topped with your choice of chocolate or berry sauce) and Snickers, but nothing completely new. Very sad that the mac & cheese on a stick hasn't made it here yet.

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The only food booths I'll visit at our Santa Cruz County Fair are those selling "real" Mexican food, prepared by members of the local Hispanic population. I'm telling you, it's tamale heaven!!

I take that back: I also stop in at Marianne's Ice Cream for an ice cream sandwich! :smile:

Edited by Xanthippe (log)
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Oh, man. I love the Ohio State Fair. Generally I walk around the entirety of the fair first, paying special attention to livestock (it's interesting to talk to some of the folks who raise them for different purposes; wool vs. milk vs. meat, see what they look for and what the animals are judged on). After that it's FOOD TIME.

We have several good BBQ places in Columbus, the best of which is City BBQ (I think Holly's been there); many of them are at the fair. Then there are the "booths" where they grill crazy amounts of meat - ten guys just flipping birds, and the smell is amazing. Funnel cakes, sweet potato fries, corn dogs, elephant ears, cream puffs from Schmidt's, lemon ice, grilled sweet corn, and don't forget the deep-fried Snickers bars. Also cotton candy (fresh) and saltwater taffy. I generally spend most of my time at the fair watching the horse shows and eating whatever looks good.

Our fair also has daily demonstrations by local chefs, which is always fascinating.

The only fair food I avoid is the stuff in the vendors' hall, which is basically mall food court food, and why would you eat that at the fair when so much deep-fried goodness surrounds you?

Three other "fair foods" I remember are from the May Market in Pittsburgh. The first is strawberries dipped in fondant; the second, lemon halves with peppermint sticks in them (try it sometime - get the sticks that aren't hard candy, just kind of crunchy and dissolving; suck lemon juice through the stick). The most important: mushroom sandwiches. Getting one involved waiting in line for half an hour to get a ticket, and then another ten minutes to get the sandwich.

The arts festival is this weekend, which means I should be able to get a slight fair-food fix in. :biggrin:

Jennie

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Mushroom sandwiches: It's been seven years since I ate one, so I may not get all the details right, but the filling seemed to be essentially roughly chopped button mushrooms and something like sour cream, mayonnaise, or reduced cream. There may or may not have been herbs or cheese or something else in them. This was then placed between two slices of sandwich bread and grilled a la grilled cheese.

In retrospect I could make a better version at home, I'm sure, but there's something about food you can only get once a year, isn't there?

Of course, if anyone's familiar with the concept and has a recipe, that would be great. Otherwise, I'll be figuring it out by trial and error.

Jennie

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Minnesota State Fair "On a Stick" items I have seen:

Corn Dog

Hot Dog

Pizza

Pretzel

Mac and Cheese

Fried Cheese

Twinkie

Chocolate Bar

Wisconsin's state fair is known for their creampuffs.

Not in Minnesota, but to add to the "On a Stick" list,

Roasted Corn

Chicken (whole breast)

Marshmellows

Rice pie is nice.

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